Today’s correspondent asks a question about ‘blue cards’ for Queensland volunteer firefighters – see:
- Working with children check for QRFS and SES (July 20, 2019);
- Membership of Queensland Rural Fire Brigades (February 17, 2020); and
- Confusion over Queensland blue card – applicants and disqualified persons (May 14, 2020).
My correspondent says:
Bluecard services who are managing the Mandated new and renewal Volunteer Firefighter blue card applications (online) appear to be instructing volunteer firefighters to check yes to the question “Are you working, or proposing to work or volunteer with children?”
Considering that primary producer brigades are exempt, (more likely to be working alongside children of neighbouring properties and thus a higher risk) and that many non exempt volunteer firefighters would not be able to truthfully answer “Yes”, is this legal/ ethical for a department to instruct people to answer a question untruthfully on such an application / renewal?
The need for a BlueCard was identified by Queensland Fire and Emergency Services on the basis that ‘The usual functions of rural fire brigade volunteer therefore includes providing a health service and/or support service to children’ (see https://emergencylaw.files.wordpress.com/2019/07/rfs_blue_cards.pdf; slide 3). That may or may not be an interpretation that a court would make but it is the QFES interpretation (see Working with children check for QRFS and SES (July 20, 2019)).
The reason a RFS volunteer needs a BlueCard is because he or she may, in the course of their duties, have to assist a young person affected by fire and perhaps render first aid to them. If a member of the RFS is applying for a BlueCard it must be because they are ‘Are proposing to … volunteer with children?’ They may not know when and it may never happen, but it is because they may render first aid and other support services to children that they require the card. If they are going to be firefighters they don’t get to refuse to provide those services to children so the purpose of the card is because they intend, if the need arises, to perform their volunteer work with children.
The question would be relevant to people who were volunteering where their key role is child related, but it is not limited to only those circumstances.
I cannot see that the answer ‘yes’ to the question ‘Are you working, or proposing to work or volunteer with children?’ is untruthful. Rural fire service volunteers may be called upon to provide their services to children, so they propose to volunteer with children. A better answer may be ‘Yes, but only if and when the need arises’ but given that answer is not an option the answer ‘yes’ is correct.
This blog is made possible with generous financial support from the Australasian College of Paramedicine, the Australian Paramedics Association (NSW), Natural Hazards Research Australia, NSW Rural Fire Service Association and the NSW SES Volunteers Association. I am responsible for the content in this post including any errors or omissions. Any opinions expressed are mine, and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or understanding of the donors.